JAZU: Jazz from Japan. Review. Kaori Miyoshi – Blackbird

Kaori Miyoshi - Blackbird

Precious Record – KMYS – 2012

Kaori Miyoshi: voice

Satoko Tanaka: piano

Koichi Sato: piano

Takayoshi Baba: electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Yudo Matsuo: electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Shigeki Serizawa: electric bass, acoustic bass

Ryoji Orihara: fretless bass

Akihito Yoshikawa: drums, percussions

Sometimes passion for jazz can come suddenly and unexpected. This is what singer Kaori Miyoshi told to an interview for magazine Jazz Japan which defined her one of the most interesting vocalist in Japanese jazz scene.

Although since her childhood Miyoshi has always been shown a remarkable talent for music and singing, only after graduating in medicine and start practicing the profession, it happened she finally had her meeting with jazz. One night, on her way back home from her job, Miyoshi fell astonished by listening to some street musicians who were playing in one of the many stations of the crowded Tokyo subway.

These experience hit so much her sensibility to make her renew her never-ceased love for music and place beside her job the singing activity which led her to performing in the jazz clubs in Yokohama and Tokyo areas: a decision that some years later also took her to America to enroll at renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston.

After taking jazz vocal courses and honing her musical skills in countless jam sessions, the singer came back to Japan to start a career as a professional singer. A dream come true for Miyoshi who, despite receiving many job proposals from jazz clubs and venues, still felt she had to leave a more concrete mark about her musical evolution, thus deciding to record and self-produce her first debut album.

Running the eyes over the playlist, it can be noticed the many musical influences living in her repertory. Her versatile and changeable voice, indeed, allows her to express in several contexts and styles, turning out to be always convincing and appealing.

Masters of songwriting such as Bob Dylan (Don’t Think twice, It’s Alright) and Paul Simon (Still Crazy After All These Years), blend with old (Fly me to Te Moon, Blame It on my Youth) and modern standards (Blackbird, Alfie) always in harmonious and coherent ways.

Accompanied alternately by a piano trio, guitar trio or performing the intimate set of a duo, Miyoshi reveals a remarkable ability to organize the music, smartly choosing the instrumental set which better suit the mood of each tune, as well as the musicians involved in the recording session. Among them are the noteworthy long term collaborator, pianist and arranger Satoko Tanaka and creative guitarists Yudo Matsuo and Takayoshi Baba.

Dry Cleaners from De Moines is a little musical jewel showing the singer, backed solely by upright bass and drums, launching herself into a challenging rendition of one the most insidious Joni Mitchell’s songs without any harmonic support. Here, contrabassist Shigeki Serizawa’s striking playing, for intention and momentum, make listeners not to regret electric bassist Jaco Pastorius present in the original recording.

Among the distinctive features of Miyoshi’s singing stands out her ability to “tell” the old stories living in the songs she selected, as a crooner would do, managing to catch the attention of the listeners and enchanting them, despite they already know the endings.